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MENSTER, William J.

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Rev. William J. Menster

MENSTER, William J. (Rev.). (Cascade, IA, Feb. 10, 1913--Apr. 14, 2007). Rev. Menster was ordained to the priesthood on June 11, 1938. His first assignment, in 1938, was Sacred Heart Parish in Waterloo, Iowa, during which time he joined the Naval Reserves. In 1943, he joined the Chaplains School in Norfolk, Va., subsequently attaining the rank of Lt. Commander. He served as the only chaplain of a five-ship fleet during "Operation High Jump," -the fourth expedition to Antarctica by Navy Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd. (1)

Rev. Menster was the first clergyman to visit Antarctica. In 1946 as a U.S. Navy chaplain, Rev. Menster was assigned to the U.S.S. Mt. Olympus. In his capacity, Rev. Menster blessed the last of the world's seven continents. The expedition of 2,000 men-Catholics, Protestants, and Jews made Menster a pioneer in administering ecumenical religious services. (2) In 1949 he showed his motion pictures to members of the Dubuque AMVETS club. (3)

In 1949 Rev. Menster, the archdiocesan director of Catholic charities, told the adventure in his book Strong Men South. In 1955 he traveled to Hollywood as technical consultant during the MGM filming of the movie "Ice Cathedral." (3) Rev. Menster became involved in veterans' work and served several years as national chaplain of the Amvets. He was the first Dubuque resident to hold that position. (4)

Ordained on June 11, 1938, Rev. Menster joined the Navy during WORLD WAR II. After twenty-five years as a Navy chaplain, he retired as a full commander and served parishes in Waterloo, Corwith, Monona, Waverly, Clarion, and St. Donatus. In Dubuque he served nine years as director of Catholic Charities. His work at ST. MARY'S ORPHAN HOME often involved playing guitar for the children.

After his retirement, Rev. Menster carried his musical entertainment to residents of Dubuque nursing homes. He also substituted for parish priests as needed and several times each year boarded a cruise ship where he served as chaplain to vacationers of all faiths.

Father Menster was a member of the Navy League, American Legion Post 6, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Military Chaplain's Association, Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus Council 510 and Catholic Daughters of America for many years, and a lifetime member of the Amvets serving at local, state and national levels. (5)



1. Obituary, Telegraph Herald, April 16, 2007, p. 4D

2. "Dubuque County Chaplain Reports on Trip to Pole," Telegraph-Herald, April 27, 1947, p. 1

3. "Amvets to See Films on Byrd Expedition," Telegraph-Herald, October 11, 1949, p. 3

4. "Legion Post Planning to Honor Fr. Menster," Telegraph-Herald, September 2, 1954, p. 15

5. Obituary